THE death of Monkey World founder Jim Cronin has sent shock waves through the conservation world of which he was so much a part.

His contemporaries in the field have paid tribute to a man of "energy and dynamism", who, for the last 20 years, devoted himself to the rescue and protection of primates.

The news that he lost his battle with liver cancer at the weekend has left many in mourning, not only for a respected campaigner, who would never turn away an animal in need, but also for a friend.

Cyril Rosen, secretary of the International Primate Protection League, knew Jim from Monkey World's earliest days when he took in his first nine apes, all rescued from beach photographers in Spain.

He said: "Since then I have turned to him many times - almost beyond count. Whenever there was an animal in trouble he would help, not only taking them in, but also in arranging collection and transport.

"And he would always take on the most challenging cases that couldn't be found homes anywhere else."

He added: "At times he disagreed with me very strongly. But even when his ideas were very different to yours they were still not wrong. Most advances in captive environments have come from individuals like that. It takes mavericks like Jim to take things one stage further forward."

Ian Redmond, chairman of the Ape Alliance, said: "My abiding image of Jim is a man of enormous energy and dedication, whatever he was doing. He had great imagination and ideas.

"He is a great loss to the world of primate conservation. Jim was extremely good at overcoming obstacles, be they bureaucratic, physical and financial, with his dogged perseverance. From nothing he created a sanctuary which has grown to be the biggest in the UK and one of the biggest in the world.

"Whenever there was a primate in danger, he was prepared to move heaven and earth to effect a rescue. That led him into extremely dangerous situations - the people whose illegal businesses he was affecting might well have taken revenge. It is very sad he has been taken away from us by an illness after he came through all of that."

He added: "On behalf of all my colleagues I would like to pay tribute to his work, and the work of the team at Monkey World."

Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation, said: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of Jim Cronin. Jim was a great ape champion for all his working life and was one of those rare individuals who was willing to go the extra mile for our non-human cousins. We are confident that his life's work will be carried on by Alison, his wife, and the Monkey World team. We send them all our sincere condolences and thoughts at this sad time."

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: "Jim Cronin worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of primates in captivity, including those kept as pets by people in the UK. His dedication to the conservation and welfare of all primates will be missed and IFAW's deepest sympathy goes out to his family."